I tucked this question into my laptop bag and entered the doors of Humber College summer writing school this past July.
I had submitted fifteen pages of writing, the beginnings of a book sharing my experiences as a partner to a man with complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The pages, already distributed to the members of the small group to which I had been assigned, awaited feedback. Nervousness prickled my mind. What would they think? Would they understand the story? Would they want to hear about my survivor-husband's story and not mine? Would my story matter to them?
The Stories of Partners
In the last year, I've focused my writing on issues affecting partners and families of adults with complex PTSD. My writing arose out of my need to find support for myself while desiring to encourage others in the same situation. I also wanted to raise awareness of the important role a partner and family plays in a survivor's recovery and why we must have our own support in order to fulfill this role. And while I have found a group of like-minded people mainly online, I and other partners continue to face a huge amount of misunderstanding about what it's really like to live with a partner with complex trauma. Compounding my anxiety, I had never talked about this topic outside the trauma world. I had no idea what others on the outside would think.
Would my story matter? Was it important? Was it needed?
The Stories of Partners Do Matter
Soon after, my fears quieted. I was met with heartfelt interest, support, and encouragement. Over and over, I heard: Tell me more. What did you feel? What was it like for you?
My story matters. If you are a partner, your story matters too.
5 Reasons the Stories of Partners of Survivors Matter
1. There is genuine interest in the story of partners. Stepping outside the world of trauma gave me a new and refreshing perspective. People listened with interest, with compassion, and with tears.
People said, “Your story is needed.”
2. People want to know about the insights of partners.
There is a place for the stories of partners alongside the stories of survivors. Partners are the missing eyes and ears. We provide insights into the impact of trauma not just on families, but on communities. The public and professionals need to know this information.
3. People want to know about the emotional experiences of partners.
The situation of partners often requires us to express ( and sometimes, not express) ourselves with restraint. People want to know about the anger, frustration, fear, and powerlessness. It was refreshing to be asked by outsiders about my emotions.
4. There is a void in material written from the perspective of partners and families of trauma survivors.
While there are many mental health memoirs written from the perspective of the sufferer and a few by caregivers, there are few (or none) written by family members of trauma survivors.
5. People do get it!
People related to my story because almost everyone is touched by mental illness. Some have personally struggled. Others have supported family or friends. Mental health issues are everywhere. The stories of partners are reflective of the stories of those who walk alongside their loved ones.
Not everyone will write, share, or speak their story publicly and that's okay! Of course, we must use judgment about when, with whom, and where to share. But what I want partners to know today is that your story is important, no matter how you share it. Your story matters to the members of the support group Partners to Survivors with Complex Trauma. Your story matters to other partners and people outside the group too. Your story matters to me.
Your story matters.
Photo by Fabiola Peñalba on Unsplash